Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HORSE AND ASS, by HEINRICH HEINE

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HORSE AND ASS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A train was rushing along one day
Last Line: Will never want his oats and hay.
Subject(s): Animals; Asses & Mules; Hearts; Horses; Nature; Railroads; Mules; Railways; Trains

A TRAIN was rushing along one day,
With carriages, engine, and tender;
The chimney vomited forth its smoke,
Like a dashing old offender.

The train pass'd a farmyard, and over the hedge
A grey horse, at the sound of the whistle,
Stretch'd out his head; an ass stood by,
Demurely chewing a thistle.

With wondering gaze the horse long stared
At the train; then strangely quivering
In every limb, he sigh'd, and said:
"The sight has set me a-shivering!

"I'm sure that if I by nature had been
"A chesnut, or black, or bay horse,
"My skin with the fright its colour would change,
"And make me (as now) a grey horse.

"The equestrian race is doom'd, beyond doubt,
"To be swept away in fate's eddy;
"Although I'm a grey horse, I cannot but see
"A black future before me already.

"The competition of these machines
"Will certainly kill us poor horses;
"For riding and driving will man prefer
"Iron steeds, if so great their force is.

"And if man can get on without our help,
"Alike for riding and driving,
"Good-bye to our oats, good-bye to our hay
"What chance have we of surviving?

"The heart of man is hard as a stone,
"He gives away nothing gratis;
"They'll drive us out of our stables, and we
"Shall starve -- what a cruel fate 'tis!

"We cannot borrow and cannot steal
"Like mortals whose natures are blacker;
"We cannot fawn like men and dogs,
"But shall fall a prey to the knacker."

Thus grumbled the horse, and deeply sigh'd, --
Meanwhile the ass hard by him
Had quietly chew'd two thistle-tops,
As if nothing could terrify him.

He presently answer'd in dainty tones,
With his tongue first licking his muzzle:
"With what the future may have in store,
"My brains I shall not puzzle.

"You horses proud are threaten'd, no doubt,
"By a future that's far from pleasant;
"But we modest asses are not afraid
"Of dangers future or present.

"That grey horses, and chesnut, and piebald, and black,
"May be done without, true, alas! is;
"But Mister Steam, with his chimney long,
"Can never replace us asses.

"However clever may be the machines
"Made by man with his senses besotted,
"The ass as his portion will always have
"Sure means of existence allotted.

"Its asses will Heaven, I'm sure, ne'er desert,
"Who, moved by a calm sense of duty,
"Turn the mill every day, as their fathers have done, --
"A sight not deficient in beauty.

"The mill-wheel clatters, the miller works hard,
"The meal in the sack well shaking,
"And people eat their bread and their rolls,
"As soon as they've finished the baking.

"In Nature's old-fashion'd and jogtrot way
"The world will keep spinning for ever;
"And as changeless even as Nature herself,
"The ass will alter never."

* * * *


Gone are the days of chivalry,
And the proud steed must hungry be;
But L --, the ass, I boldly say,
Will never want his oats and hay.

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